In Patagonia, we’d arranged a day trip to Perito Moreno. Saying “Perito Merino” made us admire its singsong of syllables. Seeing Perito Moreno made us shiver at the power of its cool beauty.
Getting to Perito Moreno—which may be the most famous glacier in the world—involved a series of buses and boats that took us from El Calafate to Lago Argentino for a view of Perito Moreno from the water and to the visitor centre with its well-designed walking circuit for a vantage from land.
Perito Moreno is one of 47 big glaciers in Los Glaciares National Park. These mammoth glaciers and 200 smaller ones are fed by the Southern Patagonian Ice Field—which holds the third-largest concentration of ice in the world (after the North and South Poles).
Often called the White Giant, Perito Moreno is gigantic: it covers more than 250 square km and extends 700 metres below Lago Argentino.
White, however, is not the colour we associate with Perito Moreno.
Icy blue is Perito Moreno’s colour.
Glacial walls tower skyward, ice blue. Light hidden in inner crevices illuminates shards of ice blue, cool and crystalline. Is there an artist who could paint this ethereal intensity?
On a world scale, Perito Moreno is easy to see up close. While most glaciers are in remote mountainous areas at high elevations, Perito Moreno is just 180 metres above sea level in the young Andes created ~18,000 years ago in Patagonia’s Ice Age.
Named after the Italian explorer Francisco Moreno, Perito Moreno has been under protection since 1937, securing its fame in 1981 when it was declared a UNESCO world heritage site.
There’s another reason it’s famous—Perito Moreno is one of three Patagonian glaciers that’s growing. Perito Moreno grows about two metres a day but with its calving, maintains stasis.
Magellan and I were on the Perito Merino walking circuit on a warm afternoon in March—the ideal time to see calving. Waiting at a spot where we had a good view of a precarious area of the glacier that looked like it may soon break off, we wondered, “should we wait or should we go?” We went. Returned. Then left again. “Let’s go back one more time,” Magellan said. We waited, Magellan’s finger ready to press “record.” Then we heard the rumble…
We booked our Patagonian trip, including our day-long visit to Perito Moreno, through Cascada Expediciones.
Franzen, Jonathan. “The End of the End of the World,” The New Yorker. May 23, 2016. “I had never before had the experience of beholding scenic beauty so dazzling” is how Jonathan describes his journey, not to Perito Moreno but to Antarctica. It’s a grand essay/story from one of America’s best writers with phrases like “the Styrofoamish powder blue of calving glaciers.”